The NCAA might have approved its most radical reinterpretation of the definition of amateurism, but it didn’t come in football or basketball, where the general public tends to take notice.
As reported by Baseball America, the NCAA approved new legislation that will allow high school prospects to hire an agent to negotiate with any professional team that drafts them. The legislation was first brought forward by the Big 12 conference, and was approved via the Power Five regulations that allow the Big 12, ACC, Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 to pass legislation autonomously outside of NCAA purview. The new agent conditions were approved by a vote of 75-2 (with three schools abstaining from the vote), and they mark a potential turning point in the NCAA’s rigid system of determining eligibility.
The key to the NCAA allowing players to sign with agents is the caveat that they must cut off any relationship with that agent should they fail to sign and instead attend college. For any period that the agent is actively working with the student athlete, he or she must pay the agent’s going rate. Critically, the rule change only has an impact on high school prospects, with college athletes unable to consult agents should they be weighing an exit after their junior season rather than at the end of their collegiate eligibility.
“Really it’s giving the opportunity for a student to make the correct decision for them and to have all the facts,”American Baseball Coaches Association executive director Craig Keilitz told Baseball America. “If we’re talking about student welfare, I’d like the student to have all the opportunities to make the right decision.”
While this is a clear step forward for student-athlete rights in baseball, it remains to be seen if this shift could lead the NCAA to revisit agent rules in other sports. The NCAA recently allowed college basketball underclassmen to declare for the draft but still return to school up until 1o days after the conclusion of the NBA Draft Combine if they are disappointed in the evaluation of their draft stock. That is still a significant step short of allowing for the hiring of an agent, and no similar measure has been discussed for football yet, either (at least in the public domain).
For now, the shift in baseball eligibility is a game-changer, or at least it has the potential to be. We’ll see just how dynamic it proves come June.